Final Fantasy XV is just like the revered series high point Final Fantasy VII. The reason being that it’s nothing at all like that game, or any Final Fantasy to have come before. In the same way that VII shook off the high fantasy trappings of its predecessors to trailblaze a sci-fi influenced kingdom of space utopias and far-reaching technology, XV ignores the series’ well-worn paths to venture into parts unknown. Its closest influences are John Hughes coming-of-age films, Steven Spielberg-style inspirational epics and the gallows humor of The Walking Dead. You get an idea of what you’re in for in the opening scene, as you push a broken-down car down a dusty highway with your buddies as a tinny Stand by Me blares in the background.
Games: Final Fantasy XV
Consoles: Xbox One (reviewed), PS4
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Release Date: November 29
After the earnest but spiraling nonsense of the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy and the good-I-guess-but-only-if-you’re-into-that-sorta-thing MMO Final Fantasy XIV, XV feels so, so right. This sprawling, emotional adventure is just what the series needed to prove to its devoted, oft-disappointed fans that this is still a series worthy of scrapping its way for contention in the RPG game of thrones. At the outset you take control of a betrothed prince on a journey of self-discovery, along with some childhood friends who spirit him along on a meandering bachelor trip that will twist their world up in knots and have them questioning everything they took for granted. The open world you venture through is part 1950s road flick, part steampunk dystopia and part John Ford Western.
Combat is a fluid and intuitive system that challenges you to feel the flow of battle and know when to dive in for a preemptive strike, hang back to dodge or risk your neck to go toe-to-toe with an enemy, block his best shot and deliver a devastating parry. Too often in past Final Fantasy games, live-action combat has been a blur of mindless button-mashing. This more sophisticated system takes cues from the likes of the Batman: Arkham games and Middle-earth: Shadows of Mordor. You also feel like part of a team, with squadmates priming foes for you to flank them with combo attacks and offering up pre-battle tidbits of advice, that, if followed, net you experience bonuses.
Much of what makes this a great Final Fantasy game is what makes it seem like it’s not a Final Fantasy game. You get right into the action, and its lore trickles out in conversation and imagery rather than dull cinematics. A reliable autosave ensures you never lose significant progress, and fallen beasts give up their loot without you having to juggle cumbersome menus. You can take the time to tinker with attributes, items and spell loadouts, but can probably get by if you want to accept presets and auto-assignments and go in with spells blazing. Subtle in-game tutorials dole out hints to help you get accustomed to new systems, making you quickly feel like a seasoned pro. Japanese world-building meets Western pragmatism to form a role-playing hybrid that’s the best of both worlds.
Most fans who pre-ordered Final Fantasy XV would have been content with a game they weren’t embarrassed to like. Square Enix gives those die-hards far more than they bargained for with this passion project, which is a staggering achievement on the levels of storytelling, artistry and action. This is a game that will not only draw lapsed fans back into the fold, but entrance those who have scoffed at the series’ recent failures and recast them as true believers. Delivering twist after twist while etching its characters into your heart and empowering you with the triumphant thrills of the battlefield, this is a joyous rebirth that makes a strong case for being one of the defining games of this generation.
Final Fantasy XV Reviews Around The Web:
“It looks to be a sprawling world, with plenty to see and do.” –CNet
“I think Square Enix has another potential classic on its hands.” –TechnoBufalo
“I loved what I experienced with the characters, the story’s beginning and the stage it was setting.” –RPGSite
Final Fantasy XV Screenshots
The publisher provided a review copy.
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